A public university in Canada recently canceled a speech set to be given by a high-profile Christian speaker after one student complained.
The University of New Brunswick’s philosophy department invited Corey Miller, president of Ratio Christi, a U.S.-based Christian campus apologetics organization, to speak on Sept. 21 on whether Christianity is good or bad for the world.
Miller told The College Fix the title of his speech was initially “Is Christianity Good or Bad for Civilization?” However, he said, to appease some concerns, he changed it to “Religious Beliefs: Axiological Reflections on Western Civilization,” which passed muster.
Yet one student still raised concerns to faculty about Miller, which led to the talk’s cancellation, according to emails reviewed by The Fix.
“The student was not stridently angry, but was concerned that you might have anti-LGTQ views,” Robert Larmer, chair of UNB’s philosophy department, told Miller in an email on Sept. 18.
The “controversial headline” was a story published in May of this year by the Daily Signal titled “Christian Professor Who Nearly Got Fired for Wrongthink on LGBT Issues Now Leads Campus Ministry.”
Miller, a former ethics professor, discussed his teaching methods regarding homosexuality in the interview.
“We were talking about human sexuality, and I gave another viewpoint in addition to the textbook, and I happened to have a student in the class that semester who was a former pastor who had turned gay and charged me with creating a suicidal environment,” Miller told the Signal.
With the pro bono help of the conservative law firm Alliance Defending Freedom, as well as two atheist students from the class who defended Miller, he said he was exonerated. The controversy — which took place well over a decade ago — is something Miller has been very open about, also speaking to The College Fix about the experience in a May 2019 article.
But UNB’s faculty appeared unwilling to risk its public image by hosting Miller.
“I and my colleagues were concerned about the effect the headline might have in terms of creating controversy around the lecture series, resulting in its cancellation by university administration,” Larmer told Miller in the same email on Sept. 18.
Miller said he believes UNB’s faculty ultimately decided to cancel his speech because they thought they were “already under the spotlight by the university for being a bit more Christian and conservative at a secular university.”
“They speculated that it probably wouldn’t be worth the risk because they thought that this probably would explode,” he said.
However, UNB argues the cancellation was mutual, beginning when UNB’s philosophy department “became aware of a recent controversial headline concerning Dr. Miller,” Larmer said.
“Both Dr. Miller and the department felt that such controversy might prove a distraction, diverting attention from what we desire to achieve in offering a lecture series in philosophy of religion,” Larmer told The Fix on Sept. 22.
“After discussing the matter, and in light of the fact that the lecture had not yet been advertised by UNB, Dr. Miller and the department mutually agreed that the best course of action was to cancel his talk,” he said via email.
Miller’s talk was canceled by UNB’s philosophy department just days before the event, the emails show, and Miller said he did not “mutually agree” to the cancellation.
“Did I realize in that phone call given the circumstances that my coming might pose a risk to them if their speculation came true? Yes. That doesn’t mean I agree with their cancellation, especially based on fearful speculation,” he said.
Miller said the bigger issue is the ramifications from the decision on free speech and diversity of thought, adding what happened to him will have a “chilling effect.”
“For Christian professors to operate — you’re operating clandestinely — and that’s why I’m not surprised by the fear and trembling by that department at the University of New Brunswick,” he said.
“Debating competing ideas is healthy,” Miller said, adding more appropriate reactions might have been to invite the concerned student to write a reaction paper to his talk or invite someone in contrast to his viewpoint to offer balance.
“But instead, they acted sheepish for no reason and, as a consequence, have become part of the cancel culture problem,” Miller said.
Despite the cancellation, Ratio Christi plans to advance diversity of thought at the University of New Brunswick, as the organization intends to start a chapter there, Miller said.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to clarify that Ratio Christi intends to start a chapter at the the University of New Brunswick.
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